Category Archives: Events

Afrofuturism: The Graphics of Octavia E. Butler

Please join us for the latest in our series of live webinars highlighting Special Collections at Princeton University Library. This month focuses on speculative fiction, also called Afrofuturism, of Octavia E. Butler.

January 2020 brought the release of the much anticipated Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia E. Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy and illustrator John Jennings, the follow-up to the no.1 New York Times bestseller Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by the same award-winning team. Butler’s groundbreaking dystopian novel offers a searing vision of America’s future. Set in the year 2024, Parable presents a country marred by unattended environmental and economic crises that lead to social chaos. Residents shelter indoors, warned against venturing outside into a world eerily similar to our contemporary COVID-19 existence.

Adapting Parable and Kindred to a graphic novel format is an astounding achievement and we are fortunate to have both Damian Duffy and John Jennings with us to discuss how they accomplished it. Their adaptations capture the energy and raw emotion of Butler’s prose with visual acrobatics and succinct verbal interchanges. Join this lively discussion with Graphic Arts Curator Julie Mellby, focusing on their graphic adaptations of classic literature, along with a look at their future projects.


Date: Friday, July 31, 2020
Time: 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. EDT
Location: Virtual


Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006) was a renowned African-American author who was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Grant and PEN West Lifetime Achievement Award for her body of work.

Damian Duffy is a cartoonist, scholar, writer, and teacher. He holds a MS and PhD in library and information sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is on faculty.

John Jennings is the newly appointed director of Megascope, Abrams ComicArt’s graphic imprint as well as a professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California, Riverside.

Klan shocked to find Borglum is Catholic; Catholics shocked to find his angels are female


Not long after John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum (1867-1941, famous for carving Mount Rushmore) finished sculpting dozens of gargoyles for Princeton University’s Class of 1879 Hall at the request of his friend Woodrow Wilson, Borglum was commissioned to sculpt a series of angels for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. As the project neared completion, Catholic officials were surprised to find many of his angels were female. This led to a heated public debate over the gender of angels, repeated in newspaper across the country.

Borglum was told to replace the female angels. An impassioned dialogue followed, ending with the artist smashing the molds for several of the figures.  “I felt like a murderer,” he confessed afterward, “but that was the only thing to do under the circumstances.” –“The Sex of Angels,” Current Opinion, Volume 39 (1905). Eventually Borglum sculpted new molds and then, publicly declared they were poorly cast and did not want his name connected with them.




The controversy led to enormous publicity, national fame for the sculptor, and in 1910, Woodrow Wilson presented Borglum with an honorary master’s degree for service to the University. His next major commission was to carve relief statues of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis on the Stone Mountain, hired by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Originally the frieze was to include an altar to the Ku Klux Klan but this plan was later dropped (See the Stone Mountain Sculpture and Memorial Hall as originally projected on the left).

In 1925, when a dispute arose between Borglum and the managing association. the sculptor once again smashed the models he had completed. He quickly moved on to begin the carving of the famous Mount Rushmore quartet.

For more, read: “The Sordid History of Mount Rushmore: The sculptor behind the American landmark had some unseemly ties to white supremacy groups” by Matthew Shaer in Smithsonian Magazine October 2016. Also recommended: Debra McKinney, “Stone Mountain: A Monumental Dilemma: Some see the monument as “the largest shrine to white supremacy in the history of the world.” Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center, Spring 2018.

In 1924, the National Alumni Committee of Princeton donated $1,000 to support the project.

“In the early going,” writes John Taliaferro, “the Klan contributed money directly to the Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association, a number of whose members were active Klansmen. While there seems to be no extant proof that Borglum officially joined the Klan himself—that he took the secret oath or donned a hooded robe—he nonetheless became deeply involved in Klan politics, as they related to Stone Mountain and on a national scale as well. He attended Klan rallies, served on Klan committees, and endeavored to play peacemaker in several Klan leadership disputes (with mixed results).

… The Kloran, the Klan’s book of rules, demanded that members be native born, white, male, and Gentile. And after World War I, the Klan’s Kreed became increasingly white supremacist, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, anti-labor, anti-alien.” — John Taliaferro, Great White Fathers: The Story of the Obsessive Quest to Create Mount Rushmore (2007).


It is perhaps ironic that a scandal emerged within the Klan leadership when they found out Borglum was a Catholic.



Celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month: Whitman and Eakins

At 2:00 p.m. on Friday, June 26, 2020, you are invited to join the second live webinar highlighting Special Collections at Firestone Library, Princeton University. Register here. The topic, “Thomas Eakins and the Making of Walt Whitman’s Death Mask,” was chosen specifically for June, LGBTQ pride month and this year, the 50 anniversary of the first march. Both Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), in their own way, broke down barriers around sex, sexuality, and the celebration of the human body, working in staunch opposition to the genteel status quo of the 19th century. Their friendship did not begin until the last five years of Whitman’s life but once they met, Eakins became a frequent guest at the poet’s Camden, New Jersey, home where Whitman was chiefly confined.

Their lives were punctuated by scandal and national disgrace, followed by even worse, periods of neglect. Just as Whitman faced rejection by publishers and critics, Eakins endured equal censure from curators and collectors. Yet each found a way to work independent of institutional patronage and pursue their own search for truth. Whitman wrote, “I never knew of but one artist, and that’s Tom Eakins, who could resist the temptation to see what they think ought to be rather than what is.”

For his part, Eakins painted a self-portrait that echoes the pose, the hue, and the sentiment in the portrait he painted of Whitman, visually coupling their images for eternity.

. . . Several months before Whitman’s death, Eakins and his partner went to Camden to practice on Whitman himself, casting his right hand in plaster. They probably left supplies in his home, anticipating what would soon be necessary. On March 26, 1892, Eakins and Sam Murray were notified of the poet’s death and early the next morning crossed the Delaware River to his house.

Working slowly and carefully over three hours, they gently oiled Whitman’s face and body, thickly coating his beard and eyebrows so they wouldn’t stick to the plaster. His ears, brows, and other features would be sculpted later and added to various plaster casts. Molds were made of the front and back of the head along with Whitman’s shoulders so a complete bust could be formed.

There is more to the story. Please join us. For a zoom address, just register here. We are holding this early in the afternoon so as not to distract from protests or demonstrations later in the day. Thanks.

Thomas Eakins and the Making of Walt Whitman’s Death Mask

“Thomas Eakins and the Making of Walt Whitman’s Death Mask,” will be the second in a series of live webinars highlighting Special Collections in Firestone Library, Princeton University. Please join Julie Mellby, Graphic Arts Curator, and Karl Kusserow, John Wilmerding Curator of American Art, at 2:00 on Friday, June 26, 2020, as we focus on two American pioneers in art and literature. The event is free and open to all, but please register here for the zoom invitation: Register

During the last five years of Walt Whitman’s life, Thomas Eakins was a frequent guest at the poet’s Camden, New Jersey, home where Whitman agreed to sit for an oil portrait. Eakins’ protégé Samuel Murray often joined them, photographing Whitman in preparation for a sculpted bust. On the day Whitman died, March 26, 1892, Eakins and Murray gathered all the necessary supplies to cast his face in plaster and early the next morning crossed the Delaware River, walking the final blocks to 330 Mickle Street. At least three death masks survive from the matrix they produced that day, one preserved at the Princeton University Library.

Thomas Eakins’ studio at 1330 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, to Walt Whitman’s house, 330 Mickle Blvd., Camden, New Jersey

That Whitman and Eakins were similar in temperament and talent is well documented. Their lives intertwined not only in the creation of American masterworks, but in the critical scorn and institutional censor they were each forced to endure throughout their careers. Each found a way to work independent of academia, sharing a common bond in their eternal search for truth within their work.

Samuel Murray, Thomas Eakins and William O’Donovan in Eakins’s Chestnut Street Studio

Here is a timeline merging the two careers:

1855: Whitman publishes the first edition of Leaves of Grass, containing twelve poems.
1856: Fowler & Wells, phrenologists, print and distribute the second edition of Leaves of Grass.
1865: While in Washington, Whitman is discharged from his position by Secretary James Harlan, supposedly for writing obscene poetry.
1865: Eakins studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), also attending lectures in anatomy and participating in dissections at Jefferson Medical College.
1873: Whitman suffers a paralytic stroke and moves in with his brother George in Camden, New Jersey.
1875: Eakins paints The Gross Clinic. Public and critical response is hostile.
1876: The Gross Clinic is rejected from the art exhibition at the Centennial Exposition.
1878: Alumni of Jefferson University scraped together $200 to buy the painting.
1882: Osgood withdraws his edition of Leaves of Grass on complaint of Boston District Attorney and the edition is reprinted in Philadelphia, along with Specimen Days. News of the censure leads to a boom in sales.
1884: Whitman uses the royalties to buy a house at 328 Mickle Street in Camden.
1885: Eakins paints The Swimming Hole.
1886: Eakins caused a scandal by lifting the loincloth of a male model in front of female students and is forced to resign as an instructor from the PAFA. He forms the Art Students’ League of Philadelphia but eventually stops teaching.
1887: Whitman lectures to hundreds in New York City at Madison Square Theater. Eakins is ostracized from Philadelphia society and spends the summer on a ‘rest cure’ at a ranch in the Dakota Badlands.
1888: Eakins is taken to Camden to meet Whitman by his friend Talcott Williams. Whitman finds the artist’s lack of social graces refreshing and offers to sit for him. “Mr. Eakins, the portrait painter, of Philadelphia; is going to have a whack at me.” Later that year, Whitman suffers another paralytic stroke followed by severe illness.
1889: Eakins paints The Agnew Clinic.
1889: The artist attends Whitman’s 70th birthday party and describes painting the poet, “I began in the usual way, but soon found that the ordinary methods wouldn’t do,—that technique, rules and traditions would have to be thrown aside; that, before all else, he was to be treated as a man.”
1890: Whitman pays $4,000 to have a tomb built for himself in Harleigh Cemetery, Camden.
1892: Whitman dies at 6:43 p.m. on March 27. The following morning, Thomas Eakins and his protégé Samuel Murray go to Camden to make a cast of Whitman’s face and left hand. Whitman’s brain is removed and sent to the American Anthropometric Society.
1895: Murray and Eakins use Whitman’s mask to carve Moses, one of ten biblical prophets commissioned for the Witherspoon building in Philadelphia.

The Laurence Hutton Collection of Life and Death Masks, Princeton University

The New York Times, May 24, 2020

In case you do not get The New York Times or didn’t see today’s paper, here is the front page. Access this page as a high-resolution PDF: VIEW PDF. This file is keyword searchable to find individuals, occupations, and locations. To order a high-quality reprint of this page, click here.

“Numbers alone cannot possibly measure the impact of the coronavirus on America, whether it is the number of patients treated, jobs interrupted or lives cut short. As the country nears a grim milestone of 100,000 deaths attributed to the virus, The New York Times scoured obituaries and death notices of the victims. The 1,000 people here reflect just 1 percent of the toll. None were mere numbers.”

2:00 New Theories on the Oldest American Woodcut

If you are not able to attend today’s 2:00 talk “New Theories on the Oldest American Woodcut: The Portrait of Richard Mather by John Foster, ca. 1670,” which is almost fully registered, ( at least you can enjoy the Mather portrait puzzle designed here:

Thanks to the template provided by Jigsaw Puzzle Explorer.

Below is a link to the recording of the presentation:

Thank you for your help!
Here is the timeline covered in the presentation:
1630 Dorchester founded, just a few months before the founding of the city of Boston
1635 Reverend Richard Mather arrived at Boston and settled in Dorchester
1638/39 The first European printing press arrived in Colonial America
1648 John Foster born in Dorchester and baptized by Mather
1667 Foster graduated from Harvard College and returned to Dorchester as a schoolteacher
1669 Richard Mather died
1670 Increase Mather wrote The Life and Death of that Reverend Man of God, Mr. Richard Mather
1670? Foster carved a portrait of Mather and printed the two composite blocks on the Cambridge press of Marmaduke Johnson and/or Samuel Green
1674 Johnson moved his press to Boston but died the same year. With Increase Mather’s help, Foster took over the press and became the first printer in Boston
1681 Foster died of consumption age 33 and equipment went to Bartholomew Green (and blocks?)
1732 Green died and equipment went to John Draper (and blocks?)

These are the sizes of the collotype reproductions printed with Gillette Griffin’s article 1959. They are not from the original impressions:
Harvard University 150 x 122 mm
University of Virginia 151 x 125 mm
American Antiquarian Society 153 x 122 mm
Princeton University 154 x 128 mm
Mass. Hist. Society 153 x 128 mm

Here is a selected bibliography so you can read more about Foster’s woodcut:

Increase Mather (1639-1723), The Life And Death Of That Reverend Man Of God, Mr. Richard Mather, Teacher Of The Church In Dorchester In New-England: [seven lines of quotations] (Cambridge [Mass.]: Printed by S.G. and M.J. [i.e., Samuel Green and Marmaduke Johnson], 1670). William H. Scheide Library 101.19. Dedication signed: Increase Mather. Boston N.E. Septemb. 6. 1670. WHS copy has engraved portrait of Increase Mather pasted on verso of t.p., with inscription: Crescentius Matherus. Aetatis Suae 49. 1688. Vanderspirit pinxit. R. White Sculp. Londini. WHS copy is Thomas M. Waller and Edith A. Pollard’s copy, acquired 6/2/38 from Goodspeed; inv. 483.

Thomas Tilestone, A Funeral Elegy, Dedicated To The Memory Of His Worthy Friend, [Microform]: The Learned & Religious Mr. John Foster; Who Deceased In Dorchester, The 9th. Of September. 1681 ([Cambridge, Mass.: Printed by Samuel Green, 1681]).

Richard Mather (1596-1660), Journal of Richard Mather, 1635: His Life And Death, 1670 (Boston [Mass.]: D. Clapp, 1850). Reproduction of the original from the American Antiquarian Society.

Samuel G. Drake (1798-1875), A Memoir Of The Rev. Cotton Mather, D. D., With A Genealogy Of The Family Of Mather (Boston: C. C. P. Moody, printer, 1851).

Samuel A. Green (1830-1918), John Foster: the Earliest American Engraver and the First Boston Printer (Boston: Published by the Massachusetts Historical Society at the Charge of the Waterston fund, No. 2., 1909). Graphic Arts Collection Z232.F7 G8. Graphic Arts copy “Elmer Adler, Princeton”–Written in pen on p. [2] of cover.

“An Early Printer: John Foster the First to Establish a Press in Boston,” The Hartford Courant, November 12, 1909: 5.

Frederick I. Weis, “Checklist of the Portraits in the American Antiquarian Society,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society; Worcester, Mass. Vol. 56, issue 1, (January 1, 1947): 55.

Sinclair Hamilton, “Portrait of a Puritan: John Foster’s Woodcut of Richard Mather,” The Princeton University Library Chronicle 18, no. 2 (Winter 1957): 43-48

Sinclair Hamilton, Early American Book Illustrators And Wood Engravers, 1670-1870: A Catalogue Of A Collection Of American Books Illustrated For The Most Part With Woodcuts And Wood Engravings (Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 1958).

Gillett Griffin (1928-2016), “John Foster’s woodcut of Richard Mather,” PaGA, Printing & Graphic Arts v. 7, no. 1 (1959): 1-19.

Richard Holman, “Some Remarks on Mr. Richard Mather,” PaGA, Printing & Graphic Arts v. 7, no. 1 (1959): 57-63.

Increase Mather (1639-1723), Life and Death of Richard Mather (1670). A facsimile reprint with an introd. by Benjamin Franklin V, and William K. Bottorff (Athens, Ohio: 1966). Firestone Library BX7260.M368 M3 1670. Facsim. of the Boston Public Library copy, except the port.

Robert Middlekauff, The Mathers; Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596-1728 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971). Firestone Library F67 .M4865 1971.

Melissa Johnson Kane, John Foster, the Ingenious Mathematician & Printer ([Charlottesville, Va.], 1973). Thesis: M.A.; University of Virginia; 1973.

B. R. Burg, Richard Mather of Dorchester ([Lexington, Ky.]: University Press of Kentucky, 1976). ReCAP BX7260.M368B87

James Lawton, “John Foster (December 1648-9 September 1681),” American Colonial Writers, 1606-1734, edited by Emory Elliott. Dictionary of Literary Biography 24 (1984): 123-25.

Herschel C. Logan, John Foster and America’s First Woodcut: 1670 (Fellerton, CA: Lyceum Press; Lorson’s Books & Prints, 1988).

Cotton Mather (1663-1728), Two Mather Biographies: Life and Death and Parentator, edited by William J. Scheick (Bethlehem, Pa.: Lehigh University Press, 1989). ReCAP, BX7259 .M32 1989

Georgia Brady Barnhill, “The Catalogue of American Engravings: A Manual for Users,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society; Worcester, Mass. Vol. 108, Issue 1 (January 1, 1998): 113.

Elisabeth Louise Roark, Artists of Colonial America (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003).

New Theories on the Oldest American Woodcut

John Foster (1648-1681), Mr. Richard Mather, ca.1670. Woodcut. Sinclair Hamilton no.1, Graphic Arts Collection, Princeton University Library


To celebrate the 350th anniversary of the oldest surviving print from Colonial America, we have assembled all five extent copies of the portrait of the Reverend Richard Mather (1596-1669) to compare them. Never exhibited together in a physical gallery, this virtual presentation will help to address the many unanswered questions surrounding the five woodcuts, such as why is his shoulder so uneven? When were they actually printed? And what was the purpose of the picture?

Princeton University is fortunate to own one of these rare impressions. With our sincere thanks, the other copies are shown courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society; Houghton Library, Harvard University; Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History, University of Virginia.

Please join us for a live zoom talk at 2:00 p.m. EDT on May 22, 2020, beginning with a presentation by Julie Mellby, Graphic Arts Curator, Princeton University Library, followed by a conversation with Caroline Duroselle-Melish, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints and Associate Librarian for Collection Care and Development, Folger Shakespeare Library.

Register here: A link will be sent once you register. Questions are welcome during the talk or in advance to Hope to see you there.

39th annual Thomas Edison Black Maria Film Festival now screening online

New York City Sketchbook by Willy Hartland of Brooklyn, NY, is only one of the 151 films included in the 39th annual Thomas Edison Black Maria Film festival, now screening online at:, thanks to the partnership with the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University, the Hoboken Historical Museum, and many other New Jersey organizations.

Here is the program booklet, which can be downloaded or read online: and/or

You can watch each film separately or watch one of the five  ‘curated’ programs of films provided by the festival. To make choosing easier, films have been broken into categories such as animation, documentary, experimental, narrative, and so on.

A call for 2021 entries is already posted. “The Black Maria Film Festival seeks diverse, expressive, and passionate short films and videos by independent makers. The Festival is known for its support of spirited, cutting edge, and otherwise singular films. The Black Maria Film Festival is committed to works that explore the potential of the medium to illuminate, provoke, enrich, and engage viewers. Imaginative and revelatory films are sought including work that provides insight into the human condition and political, social, and environmental issues, and work that addresses the lives of people with disabilities.”

Earlier in the year, the Black Maria Film Festival kicked off its 39th annual season with two special screening events at Princeton University including filmmakers Su Friedrich, Edith Goldenhar, Emily Hubley, and Lynne Sachs discussing their work and participating in an audience Q&A with Festival Director Jane Steuerwald in an evening of “Women in Film.” There was also a screening of five top prize-winning films with filmmaker/photographer/author Eugene Richards, winner of the Festival’s Stellar Award for Documentary. If you join the mailing list, you will receive announcements and not miss any 2021 events.

Update on project 3: Women graduates

Margaret Boyd, first woman graduate portrait, Ohio University, circa 1890

Last week, a challenge was posted to send the name and details of the first woman to graduate from your college or school.

Here is the beginning of a spreadsheet with the data that’s coming in:

These are priceless stories. Don’t be left out. Send the information on your own institution’s history and it will be included. Sincere thanks to all who are participating!

2020 Gillett G. Griffin memorial lecture cancelled

Kevin Barry talks to WNYC’s Brooke Gladstone. from Irish Arts Center on Vimeo.

Sadly, the Gillett Griffin memorial lecture scheduled for April 2020 is cancelled, along with our colleague’s New Irish Fiction panel at Columbia University. As a replacement, here’s a video of Kevin Barry talking with WNYC’s Brooke Gladstone at the NYC Irish Arts Center last fall when his novel Night Boat to Tangier first appeared in the US.

Here also is a section to read:

“Kevin Barry, one of Ireland’s most exciting novelists, reads from and discusses his latest work Night Boat to Tangier, a tragicomic Irish saga of menace and romance, mutual betrayals and serial exiles. Author and journalist Brooke Gladstone, of WNYC’s On The Media, moderates.”

See also: